West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Pick 12/29/19
West Virginia Mountaineers (10-1 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS)
When: Sunday, December 29, Noon
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland
Point Spread: WVU +7/OHST -7 (Best Basketball Lines)
Total: O/U 137
Last Time Out:
Ohio State edged Kentucky 71-65; West Virginia bested Youngstown State 75-64.
Scouting the Mountaineers:
So West Virginia has proven that it can beat the teams that it’s supposed to beat. Now, can they go onto a neutral court and take down second-ranked Ohio State? That’s going to be a tall task.
To do it, Derek Culver needs to find his shot. On the one hand, the Mountaineers have been getting by with a few contributions from their top players. But on the other, Ohio State is a much better opponent than anyone from West Virginia has seen all year. The Buckeyes give up just over 57 points per game, an absurdly low number for anyone, especially a team that’s been facing power conference opposition. With only three players on the team who average double figures, West Virginia can’t afford for anyone to have a bad day in this matchup, and that means that Culver has to start hitting shots again. Forty-five percent is simply not going to cut it against the Buckeyes.
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Scouting the Buckeyes:
The win over Kentucky was somewhat reassuring, as it showed that Ohio State’s defense isn’t a mirage and only looked better when the Wildcats turned around and bested Louisville at home. Plus, Ohio State seems to have discovered some offensive help from freshman D.J. Carton, who was the lone bright spot in the loss to Minnesota. That game marked the first of three straight where he had scored in double figures and having him on the same page as Kaleb Wesson would go a long way toward making Ohio State an even better offensive team. Truthfully, that might be the scariest thing about Ohio State: I think there’s another level this team has yet to reach.
Free-throw shooting. This game shouldn’t come down to how well the teams can hit from the line, but if it does, Ohio State has a significant advantage. West Virginia has been one of the worst squads in the nation from the stripe, shooting 67.3 percent from the stripe and having three of their five minutes leaders shooting 65 percent from the line. Those are numbers that can turn close wins into close losses and turn even games into a learning experience.
West Virginia will Cover if:
The Mountaineers can push the tempo. We are not exactly at the level of the Press Virginia days, but West Virginia does like to play a lot faster than most teams are comfortable with. Ohio State is not a team that wants to play at a fast tempo, and really, the best chance that the Mountaineers have is keeping the ball out of Wesson’s hands by forcing Ohio State to make mistakes with the ball. The more touches Wesson gets, the worse the situation gets for the Mountaineers.
Ohio State will Cover if:
The Buckeyes can win or come close to winning the battle of the boards. Ohio State rebounds the ball well, but few teams can match West Virginia and its size inside with Culver and Oscar Tshiebwie. If either of those two gets going inside, the Mountaineers can do some serious damage, as Wesson can’t stop them both. The Buckeyes have to cut them off by limiting offensive boards.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This seems far too easy. Ohio State has already shown that it can get the job done against quality opponents. Sure, Villanova and North Carolina might not be the squads that they usually are at this point in the season this year, but they’re still decent opponents, and Ohio State has flattened them both. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s best win is against….Rhode Island? Maybe?
The reality is that West Virginia hasn’t covered against mediocre opponents this year, and now that they face a squad like Ohio State, there seems to be a consensus that West Virginia is ready to play in this game. I personally don’t see it. I think the sugar rush of the early schedule proves to be a harsh teacher for the Mountaineers and gets them better prepared to open the Big 12 against Kansas. But that game isn’t the one on the slate right now, and while I think the Mountaineers will be better for playing this game, they still have to play it, and I don’t think it goes well. Give me the Buckeyes.
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